Coronavirus pandemic in the US

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3:51 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Fed chair says this is the worst economy in history

From CNN’s David Goldman

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell Federal Reserve

How bad is the coronavirus economy? The worst ever, says Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.

"We are going to see economic data for the second quarter that is worse than any data we have seen for the economy," Powell said. "There are direct consequences of the disease and measures we are taking to protect ourselves from it."

The recovery will be long and painful, but the economy could begin to bounce back significantly in the third quarter as businesses reopen, he added. While we won't go back to pre-coronavirus levels for quite some time, the third quarter could provide some economic relief.

"We will enter the new phase — and we are just beginning to maybe do that — where we will begin formal measures that require social distancing will be rolled back, gradually, and at different paces in different parts of the country. And in time, during this period, the economy will begin to recover," Powell said.

Powell also noted that unemployment shot higher for minorities in the United States —much faster than it has for white Americans.

Just a few months ago, the US labor market was the best-ever for minorities, Powell noted. Now, minorities are among the first to lose their jobs as stay-at-home orders have shuttered restaurants, movie theaters, retailers and many other businesses.

"It is heartbreaking, frankly, to see that all threatened now," Powell said. "All the more need for our urgent response and also that of Congress, which has been urgent and large, and to do what we can to avoid longer run damage to the economy."

Powell noted that people "who are least able to bear it have been the first to lose their jobs, and they have little cushion to protect themselves.

"That is a very big concern," Powell said.

3:46 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

California initiative will supply food banks through local farms

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

Volunteers help load food as vehicles arrive at a Los Angeles Regional Food Bank drive-thru giveaway in Pico Rivera, California on April 28.
Volunteers help load food as vehicles arrive at a Los Angeles Regional Food Bank drive-thru giveaway in Pico Rivera, California on April 28. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

California’s latest food supply initiative uses a farm to table philosophy to create stopgap measures during the pandemic with local farms and food banks working in unison.

With people out of work, food banks are seeing a 73% spike in demand, and the closure of restaurants and cancellation of events has led to a 50% decrease in demand for farm goods, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

This new program will provide food boxes filled with high quality produce, poultry and other goods to feed a family of four for a few days. There are 128 farmers and ranchers on board already, and they will supply food to 41 food banks. Another 200 participants have already been identified as the program expands.

The partnership between federal and state government also includes private funds from philanthropists, Newsom said. About $3.6 million has already been raised to start the program, with a goal of raising $15 million. Farmers will receive a tax credit of 15%, and provide for wages to farmworkers. 

Additionally, Newsom announced a federal waiver that will allow food stamp recipients to use their debit cards for online food purchases. The state has created an agreement with Amazon and Walmart, and plans to bring other retailers on board.

 

3:39 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Maryland reports 985 coronavirus-related deaths

From CNN’s Pamela Wessman

There are now 20,849 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan said in a news conference today.

So far, 985 residents have died and 4,402 have been hospitalized, Hogan said.

Currently, 1,610 people are hospitalized and 586 are in intensive care, he said.

3:46 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

8-year-old inspiration for Mitch Albom's coronavirus fundraising project crashes interview

CNN's Brooke Baldwin spoke to author Mitch Albom today about his new serialized story, Human Touch. He is publishing a new chapter each week online to raise money to fight Covid-19.

Albom, a long-time sportswriter and author, said the story is about an 8-year-old boy living in Detroit who is immune to getting sick during a health crisis. Albom said the main character "becomes the key to solving the whole crisis and he is based on a real 8-year-old boy" from an orphanage that Albom runs in Haiti.

In a surprise moment during the interview, Albom's eight-year-old inspiration — who is currently staying with him after traveling to the US for treatment — popped on screen with the writer.

"I bring him up for therapy and he got stuck here in the travel ban, so he's been here ever since and he is the absolute light of our lives," Albom said.

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3:23 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

New York City reports more than 17,000 confirmed and probable coronavirus deaths

From CNN's Rob Frehse

New York City has reported 12,287 confirmed and 5,302 probable coronavirus deaths, according to the city website.

The New York City Health Department defines probable deaths as people who did not have a positive Covid-19 laboratory test, but their death certificate lists as the cause of death “Covid-19” or an equivalent.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus deaths and probable coronavirus deaths in New York City is 17,589

There have been 159,865 coronavirus cases in the city and approximately 41,316 people have been hospitalized, according to the city.

The data is from the New York City Health Department and was updated on April 29 at 1 p.m., according to the website.

3:17 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Customers should wear face coverings at Ohio businesses, official says

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted
Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted The Ohio Channel

 

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said customers should wear face coverings when they visit businesses, but will not be required to do so.

Workers, however, will be required to wear face coverings, he said.

According to Husted, there are exceptions to that mandate. They are... 

  • An employee in a particular position is prohibited by a law or regulation from wearing a face covering while on the job.
  • Wearing a face covering on the job is against documented industry best practices.
  • Wearing a face covering is not advisable for health purposes.
  • If wearing a face covering is a violation of a company’s safety policies.
  • An employee is sitting alone in an enclosed workspace.
  • There is a practical reason a face covering cannot be worn by an employee.

Husted said if any of these exceptions apply to a certain business or an employee, written justification must be provided when requesting an exemption from the mandate.

 

3:19 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Pig farmer says he may be forced to euthanize hogs as meat processing plants struggle during pandemic

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury, Ann Colwell and Rob McLean

President Trump signed an executive order requiring meat processing plants to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic, but plant workers are concerned about their safety and say they’re not going to show up.

This stall in the meat producing pipeline is having a ripple effect and impacting farmers.

According to one estimate from the National Pork Board, more than 1.5 million hogs will have to be destroyed in the coming weeks as farmers run out of space to maintain them.  

Minnesota based pig farmer Mike Patterson told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin that he will soon be forced to euthanize hogs on his farm.

Patterson said he has about 3,000 hogs on his farm and was scheduled to start selling to Smithfield Foods, Inc. in Sioux Falls on April 15, but still hasn't sold any hogs.

“At some point, there's … no way we're going to be able to handle the backlog because the plants won't even be at full capacity when they do get running,” he said.

On Tuesday, Trump signed the order after some companies, such as Tyson Foods, were considering only keeping 20% of their facilities open. The vast majority of processing plants could have shut down — which would have reduced processing capacity in the country by as much as 80%, an official familiar with the order told CNN.

2:53 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

Elective surgeries will resume in Virginia on Friday

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

Elective surgery and dental procedures in Virginia can resume on Friday when the state's public order expires, according to Gov. Ralph Northam. 

Hospitals and dental facilities will restart non-emergency procedures safely, Northam said at a briefing Wednesday.

"These are safe, clean places to go," Northam said.

Northam has partnered with the governors of Maryland and Delaware following President Trump's act requiring meat packing facilities to remain open.

The governors in the tri-state area are working with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials to assess plants and "reconfigure spaces" to ensure "workers are able to be separated and protected," Northam said.

"The majority of these workers have low incomes and are from communities of color; these factors place them at a higher risk," Northam said. "If we declare that workers at meat processing plants are essential, then it is imperative that we continue to support their health and well being," Northam said. 

Virginia has 14,961 total cases with 622 new cases and 30 new Covid-19-related deaths in the last 24 hours, health officials said.

3:14 p.m. ET, April 29, 2020

New York Times: FDA expected to issue emergency authorization for remdesivir

From CNN’s Arman Azad

The US Food and Drug Administration plans to announce an emergency-use authorization for remdesivir, according to the New York Times.

The authorization for the investigational coronavirus treatment could come as soon as Wednesday, the Times reported, citing a senior administration official.

In a statement to CNN, the FDA on Wednesday said it is in discussions with Gilead Sciences, the maker of remdesivir, about making the drug available to patients. 

“As part of the FDA’s commitment to expediting the development and availability of potential COVID-19 treatments, the agency has been engaged in sustained and ongoing discussions with Gilead Sciences regarding making remdesivir available to patients as quickly as possible, as appropriate,” said Michael Felberbaum, an FDA spokesperson.

The FDA’s expected move comes after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, announced encouraging results from a remdesivir trial in a White House meeting with President Trump. When compared to patients who received a placebo, remdesivir was shown to shorten the duration of Covid-19, but there was no statistically-significant difference in whether patients died. The full study has not yet been released, and the research has not been peer-reviewed.

An emergency-use authorization would be notable because remdesivir is not currently approved to treat any disease – unlike some other drugs that have been used for coronavirus patients, such as hydroxychloroquine.

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